How To Make Decision When You Feel Stuck

Melissa Bennett-Heinz
LCSW, Gestalt Psychotherapist

Self Help

Decision-making can be nerve-wracking, especially if the stakes are high. Even low-stakes situations may stop you dead in your tracks as you carefully weigh every option. There’s no simple formula for making the “right” decision every time, but there are several steps you can take to ensure you’re making the most informed, confident choice.

It is quite common for many people to struggle in coming to a decision – there are many reasons why and what contributes to the struggle.  Most decisions we make are not simple, black-and-white choices, and leave a person feeling powerful, strong emotions that are uncomfortable and difficult to tolerate. A very common reason is anxiety or fear of making the “wrong” decision, what will happen if the decision is “bad,” what will happen if…fill in the blank here, fear of the unknown, concern of what others will think of them as well as how it may impact someone else or what the ripple effect might be.  To make a decision, one must be willing to take a risk and give up control both of which are not easy to do.

How can good decision-making skills help you? The ability to make a decision and choose helps to keep you from being stuck in one place, can provide a sense of direction and a plan of action, helps to set and achieve goals, and the ability to set and accomplish goals no matter how small or large provides feelings of self-esteem and confidence, thus improving mood, decreasing anxiety and even bringing relief.

Here are some strategies or techniques that might help you make decisions or things to consider to assist you with making better decisions:

1) To begin, it is important to reframe what making a decision means for you. Rather than thinking about decision-making as dichotomous or right or wrong, think of it as making the best choice with the information you have at the moment. All decisions will potentially have some kind of valuable redemption and can serve as a place from which learning, growing, and reconsideration take place. Remember that very few, if any, decisions lead to dire consequences in which there will be no choice, later on, to be made.

2) Be clear and define the decision you need to make, recognize the issue, and need to address it.

3) Gather relevant information based on facts and data, ask yourself what information you need to know, and then seek out someone who can provide it or research it.

4) Identify the various solutions you have come up with from the information you have gathered. You will likely have many options to choose from so it’s an important step in the decision-making process that will help you to determine the best course to take.

5) Weigh the pros and cons, then select the option that you believe is best based on the information and options. At times, it’s helpful to process your thoughts with someone who can listen and help weigh the pros and cons from a different perspective. Don’t overthink this and turn the same thing over and over – this is fear rearing its head.

6) Make the choice and take action, be willing to try something. Remember to take time to reflect on what worked, or didn’t work so well, and remind yourself that you can learn from this and make another choice at any time. Remember: you are not the sum of your choices. Your decisions are just that – decisions. They do not define your worth.  

People tend to approach problems from different angles and think about things in different ways. Every person is unique – every single one of us.  Due to this very real fact, we will all approach decision-making differently, and how we make choices is informed and dependent upon the person and what has influenced their development such as gender, race, ethnicity, culture, age, experience, education, work, family, etc.  Everyone views the world through a particular set of lenses – it doesn’t make them more right or capable, just different. Be willing to let go and take a chance on making a choice, what you will be most surprised at is it is much harder before you do it than after.  Most of the time, we look back and wonder what we made such a big deal of it for.

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."


Amelia Earhart